Aloe Baby’s little brother is here, and what a joy! I’m so thankful to have him, especially after a difficult pregnancy. Now that he’s here, I can’t imagine life without him!
I met a woman recently who reminded me that it’s not sufficient that we grow in wisdom; we have to share our wisdom. So I would like to share the supports that have allowed me to provide my little guy with all the food he needs and more. We have an overabundance of food for this one because I learned so much when I struggled to have enough to feed Aloe Baby.
- If you’re worried about supply, start pumping immediately after delivery (as soon as you put down your baby in your Mamma/Baby room if you’re in the hospital), and keep it up. Even though you’re going to want to sleep, schedule feeding and/or pumping sessions every 2 hours the first few days, then every 3 hours or so. Feed/pump no less than 8 times/day the first two weeks. Let your body know you’re serious about milk production. It’s taxing, but after 10-14 days, you may be able to let up significantly and catch up on your rest. Your body will be producing beautifully.
- Start galactagogues immediately! Galactagogues are foods, herbs, or medications that stimulate milk production. I wanted to stay natural, so I’ll talk about my experiences with foods and herbs. Because I did these things all at the same time, I can’t tease out their individual effects. But something made the difference between underproducing and overproducing, so I present them all. One caveat: “natural” is not always “safe.” Nightshade is natural, but I don’t recommend you consume it! Even with good things, moderation is key, and working with a knowledgeable lactation consultant or other medical professional is important.
- I stocked up on Milkmakers Cookies before I gave birth. Wow, am I glad I did! The cookies are SO good, and they are made with oats and other foods that are believed to stimulate milk production. My first couple of weeks, I lived off these cookies. As exhausted as I was, it was all I could do to grab a packet, tear it open, and eat a (huge) cookie before falling into bed or getting the baby or toddler fed. I appreciated that the only cleaning up I had to do was throw away the package and sweep up the crumbs.
- Not so yummy but terribly important is Motherlove’s More Milk line of herbs. Definitely work with a lactation consultant to identify the best formulation for you. I’ve experienced the side effects of choosing the wrong formula. Not fun! This stuff can make babies a little gassy, too. Since I produce enough milk to share and don’t know for sure who will be drinking my milk, I choose to use a reduced dosage.
- The herb shatavari is reportedly as powerful a galactagogue as prescription medications for some women. I first used it with my daughter and found it to increase lactation volume by 20-30%.
- Lecithin, which is commonly used as an emulsifier in food preparations, is useful for women who experience blocked milk ducts. That’s me! I have found that I need large daily doses until the blockage clears, and then I can use a lot less on a daily basis to keep them clear. And as long as I keep my ducts clear, I have no trouble with mastitis. Mastitis is bad. Very bad! So lecithin is super, super important in my household.
- Tender Defender is amazing for treating nipple trauma. Whether the trauma comes from direct feeding or pumping, the constant use of this body part makes it hard for skin to heal. Tender Defender provides those EFAs and other nutrients that the skin needs to heal itself. The smell from the essential oils does not seem to affect baby’s interest in feeding. To be safe, I use it immediately after feeding/pumping so that the skin has plenty of time to absorb all the components. After it air dries, I follow up with an oil-based ointment to keep the skin pliable.
- Bella B Nipple Nurture Butter is a fantastic vegan alternative to lanolin. It’s fairly economical, and it provides extra moisturizing power on top of Tender Defender.
- Consider supplementing with not only vitamins and minerals but also probiotics. The body of research on the constituent probiotics found in breastmilk and their effects on babies is growing tremendously. Work with a knowledgeable medical adviser to identify what might be most safe and effective for you.
- Stay hydrated! Traditional Medicinals’ Mothers Milk Tea is a terrific sip. But I have fallen in love with the tisanes (a.k.a. herbal teas) of SerendipiTea. SerendipiTea produces some of the tastiest “teas” (including tisanes) in the world, with blends that delight any palate. You need to love drinking liquids while you’re producing milk, mommies! But you also need to avoid caffeine, artificial sweeteners/colors/flavors. A good assortment of tisanes may be a terrific gift for you!
- If you have trouble with nipple trauma, work with your lactation consultant to make sure you have a good fit with your equipment. If you’re pumping full time, you might want to rent a hospital grade pump, which tends to be a little more effective but a little less stressful. Try Tender Defender for healing.
- Always apply a food grade oil-based ointment to nipples immediately before pumping. They’re about to be stretched and stressed. Give them a little love first.
- Shake out those mammaries before pumping them. It opens up the ducts and can help stimulate let-down.
- Look at pictures or video of your baby while you pump. I have a terrific video of my little guy cooing in his sleep on my iPhone, and I play it when pumping is particularly uncomfortable or I’m otherwise having trouble getting milk out. It seems to help.
- Learn to massage. Keep your hands free with a pumping bra and use them to gently but firmly massage the ducts out. You’ll reduce the incidence of blocked ducts and mastitis.
- Your pumping equipment and bottles will quickly develop a milky film that is frustratingly difficult to remove even with bottle brushes. I like to use a diluted solution of Biokleen Citrus Soy Solvent and dish soap to strip that film and keep everything clean on a daily basis. Diluting is important; see note about stressing plastic below. Rinse well.
- Use the same Citrus Soy Solvent in your laundry to keep your pumping bra and breast pads free from oily buildup. I squirt it directly on the clothes and toss them in the washing machine but do a double rinse to make sure it’s all gone.
- It’s not enough to use BPA-free plastics. Another threat looms over almost all plastics. Don’t over-stress your plastic pumping gear or bottles! There has been recent research on the estrogenic activity of stressed plastics. Give your baby the best start by *not* regularly sterilizing equipment and bottles.
- Are showers painful? If the droplets of water irritate traumatized nipples, try showering with your bra on. Take it off at the very end just to get the area clean, but you’ll enjoy your shower again if your tender parts aren’t getting water tortured.
- Don’t focus on the number of ounces you have pumped during a day. Focus on how many ounces per hour you’re pumping. It’s a subtle shift, but important. If you’re counting number of ounces, you’re going to get frustrated with small numbers. But if you’re counting ounces/hour, you’re going to embrace those shorter intervals because your best production numbers will come with 2- and 3-hour intervals. Suddenly, getting 2 ounces per pump isn’t as disappointing when you realize you’re getting one ounce per hour. That’s a terrific goal!
- If you have worked with your lactation consultant to set a target number of times per day that you pump, shift so that the first pump of the new day is taken care of just before you go to bed. Again, it’s a subtle shift in thinking, but it’s comforting knowing you’ve already gotten one pump of the day done, and no matter what happens in the middle of the night, you have a good start on the day. This doesn’t mean you have to pump after midnight and stay up late. Just shift your 24-hour period to correspond with your sleep cycle (such as it is!).
What tips do you have that you’d like to share?